Sunday Night Journal, August 6, 2017
I've been out of town for a week and only got home late today, so this will be hasty, just a few notes on things I've read here and there over the past couple of weeks.
I've managed to avoid reading most of the reaction to that weird "ecumenism of hate" piece by Fr. Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa. But I did see a rather telling remark from him reacting to the reaction:
The reaction of the "haters" seems a clear sign that our article is telling the truth about the "ecumenism of hate".
That strikes me, first, as astonishingly juvenile, and, secondly, pretty much of a piece with the original article in its clarity of thought. If someone accuses Fr. Spadaro of being a bad priest, and he reacts angrily, does that prove the accusation? I read somewhere that he has written about Flannery O'Connor. I wonder what he said. I suppose he may have gotten the theology right but it's hard to believe that he understood the culture. Did he take Francis Tarwater to be a typical evangelical?
One reaction that I did read was from Matthew Schmitz in The Catholic Herald, and he says something that struck me as possibly being the key not only to this little teapot-tempest but to an important aspect of what Pope Francis is doing and hopes to achieve. These two remarks, distant from each other in the article, are the nub of it:
[The article] is an attempt to defend the liberal order against what is perceived, rightly or wrongly, as an existential threat.
Pope Francis and his advisers believe the Church must defend the system of open borders and celebratory diversity exemplified by liberal Europe.
You need to read the whole piece--it's not very long--to establish the context and flesh out what Schmitz means. It is at least in part a conjecture about a new Catholic order. Since sometime in the 19th century (at least), the Vatican and the Church at large have been trying to figure out what the place of the Church in the modern world can and should be. In a nutshell (if I'm not misreading him), Schmitz proposes that Francis and his allies are attempting to establish a relationship between the Church and the secular liberal state similar to the one it once had with the old order in Europe. It's a fascinating thesis, and if true would explain a lot.
I just skimmed the original piece again. What a dog's breakfast it is. It's not completely wrong, nor its concerns unwarranted, by any means. It's just a mess.
It's not all that often that I read George Will. I saw a link to this piece somewhere and followed the link purely because the title was intriguing: "Trump Is Something the Nation Did Not Know It Needed."
Furthermore, today’s president is doing invaluable damage to Americans’ infantilizing assumption that the presidency magically envelops its occupant with a nimbus of seriousness....
Fastidious people who worry that the president’s West Virginia and Ohio performances — the alpha male as crybaby — diminished the presidency are missing the point, which is: For now, worse is better. Diminution drains this office of the sacerdotal pomposities that have encrusted it.
We very badly need to rein in the power, pomp, and circumstance of the presidency. He is not a king (nor will she be a queen, when that finally happens). Part of the reason that our factions consider it a matter of life and death to get one of their own in the office is the unconscious belief that he is. I often think that some form of monarchy really is most natural to mankind. Many Americans seem to want to revert to it.
In a comment on a recent album of the week, Don linked to NPR's list of The 150 Greatest Albums Made by Women. It's an interesting list, if you find that sort of thing interesting, though it seemed to me that in a few cases "made by women" was a bit of a stretch (Fleetwood Mac?). But as I was reading along I was astonished to find the assertion that in 1992 Tori Amos was writing about "typically taboo topics including but not limited to sex, religion and sexism. " What?!? How can anyone seriously assert that in 1992 any of those topics were "taboo"? I guess some people still get a thrill out of thinking that there's something courageous about saying things that might have been shocking in 1960 but have long since ceased to be so. It's a pretty cheap thrill, though.
Slightly related: in The Atlantic, James Parker has an account of visiting a San Francisco museum exhibit called "The Summer of Love Experience." He notes a striking omission:
...Where are the drugs? Their symptoms and sequelae are everywhere, of course, splattered wall-to-wall and chiming from the overhead speakers. But where, in this “Summer of Love Experience,” is LSD itself? Because—not to be too drearily materialistic about it—without that, none of this. Without the willing deliverance of an entire generation to artificially induced mental blowout, to swiftly sacramentalized psychic disruption/expansion, no Jefferson Airplane posters. Indeed, no Jefferson Airplane. A 50-year retrospective might have been a good moment to confront this a little more squarely: The pop culture of the ’60s, with all its ideological ramifications and projections, was a by-product of the drugs.
I don't think that last sentence is quite accurate. Some sort of culturally revolutionary youth movement would have happened without the drugs. I'd put it this way: the movement as it actually happened was inseparable from the drugs.
The view from behind a rest stop somewhere on Interstate 81 in central or western Virginia. I could stand to live among those big rolling hills and their vast green fields and pastures.
I could stand to live in a great many places that I've visited, actually, and probably a great many that I haven't. What a great variety of rich beauty the world offers us!
Interstate 81 does go through a very beautiful part of the country.
I like what George Will wrote there, makes good sense.
Too bad we can't have a benevolent dictatorship, since there is probably no such thing, I would love to live in a land without political advertisements for one thing. Not to mention ads for ambulance chasing lawyers!
Posted by: Stu | 08/07/2017 at 08:41 AM
This is a good take by Douthat on the Francis/America thing:
Posted by: Rob G | 08/07/2017 at 09:24 AM
Excellent piece. One of the many many things the LCC piece misses is that the closest thing to real integralism one can find on the Catholic side is among the distributist crowd who give huge importance to the social encyclicals.
"if Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus were integralists, I am a lemur." Ha. Yes--that same crowd loathe the Neuhaus-Weigel-Novak crowd precisely for their attempt to marry Catholicism to the liberal-secular order.
"...the pope’s men are effectively condemning not only American conservative Catholics but also the pope’s own writings on poverty and environmentalism..."
Yes, that's possibly the weirdest thing about the article. It comes close to saying "Keep religion out of politics!"
Posted by: Mac | 08/07/2017 at 10:18 AM
It's funny, just this morning I was walking from my living room to my dining room thinking, "I never see anything by George Will anymore. I wonder if he's dead." I guess not.
That picture reminds me a lot of a place that I drive by frequently. They have a cross on the top of the hill.
One of my favorite places is the River Bend Rest Area on the Natchez Trace near Jackson, MS. It's on the Pearl River. The pictures here are nice enough but they just don't convey how amazingly peaceful it is there. Most of the times we've been there, we have been alone. There's never been more than one other car there.
Posted by: Janet | 08/07/2017 at 06:41 PM
It is beautiful. My picture is misleading as far as peace is concerned: it was a small place and was completely jammed with cars and people. But when I walked around the back, that's what I saw.
Posted by: Mac | 08/07/2017 at 06:47 PM
Speaking of George Will, Stu said " I would love to live in a land without political advertisements for one thing." Will had another column recently which pointed out that ads attacking Mo Brooks and favoring Luther Strange are being paid for by a PAC run by Mitch McConnell. (Alabama politics)
Posted by: Mac | 08/07/2017 at 06:49 PM
That's interesting, Mac. I see those darn ads every night while watching the news. What makes Luther Strange better than than Mo Brooks? All four of the Republicans who want Jeff Sessions seat say the same thing: I love Donald Trump the most, I will do away with Obamacare, the NRA thinks I am the best, etc. It is really nauseating to watch since I am diametrically opposed to all of what they supposedly stand for.
Posted by: Stu | 08/08/2017 at 07:29 AM
Even I find it nauseating, although I'm in more agreement with their views than you are. It's just meaningless pandering and unfortunately it tends to work. Do you mean why is Strange preferable in the eyes of the Republican establishment? I don't know. Maybe G. Will mentioned it in that column but if so I've forgotten. Presumably something to do with willingness to toe the party line.
Posted by: Mac | 08/08/2017 at 10:46 AM
Instead of a vote, I think the four should go to a firing range and whoever is the best shot can have the seat. Preferably the targets will be likenesses of Bill and Hillary Clinton. And they have to hold onto a Bible while shooting.
Posted by: Stu | 08/08/2017 at 11:07 AM
That's a great idea.
Posted by: Mac | 08/08/2017 at 12:05 PM
Shouldn't the phrase be"cling to their bibles"?
Posted by: Robert Gotcher | 08/08/2017 at 04:41 PM
That is a very good piece by Douthat. Hope Spadaro and Figueroa read it. And loved the bit about Trump being "cheerfully pagan".
Posted by: Marianne | 08/08/2017 at 06:13 PM
I haven't followed it closely, but something or other that I read earlier today said that S&F are vigorously defending their piece, sticking with their the "bit dog hollers" reasoning.
Posted by: Mac | 08/08/2017 at 08:41 PM
The most recent George Will column on Washington Post site is about the Republican party being the party of the "grotesque". He quotes Flannery O'Connor and writes specifically about the race to replace Jeff Sessions senate seat. He seems to think that if Roy Moore beat the other ones he would then lose to a Democrat.
Posted by: Stu | 08/09/2017 at 09:46 AM
Hard to imagine any Democrat winning in Alabama now but I guess this might be a chance. Saw a poll a day or two ago that had Moore ahead significantly.
Posted by: Mac | 08/09/2017 at 10:26 AM
He seems to think that if Roy Moore beat the other ones he would then lose to a Democrat.
Yeah, that's what everybody thought about Trump and presidency. But I guess Moore doesn't have Trump's charisma.
Posted by: Janet | 08/09/2017 at 11:39 AM
But he's revered by a lot of conservative evangelicals.
Posted by: Mac | 08/09/2017 at 09:13 PM
I did not get an album review written for you, Mac. Sorry! We are quite close to beginning the semester and my mind is cluttered with other things.
Posted by: Stu | 08/10/2017 at 07:00 AM
I have a lot going on, too, most of it in the form of two small boys, so I recycled another old one. After this week I won't be quite as pressed for time.
Posted by: Mac | 08/10/2017 at 08:43 AM
I have another one in the works as well.
Posted by: Rob G | 08/10/2017 at 12:44 PM
Have any of you ever listened to Close Reads?
Posted by: Janet | 08/10/2017 at 06:15 PM
Posted by: Mac | 08/10/2017 at 09:44 PM
I would take "integralist" to be used as a loose synonym of "ultratraditionalist", rather than a deliberate evocation of the specific political theology with all it entails. (This is how the word is now used by French journalists.) The piece is an attempt to read America through a European lens, but I suspect it's inspired not so much by what's happening in the US as by the way the European right now (in a strange quirk of history) looks to America for inspiration – and produces a grotesque collection of tricks and tics taken out of their organic context.
Posted by: Paul | 08/11/2017 at 11:07 AM
I should say the left does the same: I've seen several attempts to bend events in Belgium into a "Black Lives Matter" or "Occupy" narrative that just doesn't fit local conditions, any more than Breitbart and the Tea Party do. I blame the internet. When it comes to politics, so many otherwise intelligent people seem to think in memes now, instead of looking at what's actually going on around them.
Posted by: Paul | 08/11/2017 at 11:53 AM
That's very true, though it didn't start with the internet. Thirty years ago I would have said they were thinking in bumper stickers.
It's probably hard to find true integralists in this country, but I think where found they're likely to be also describable as ultratraditionalists.
"The piece is an attempt to read America through a European lens, but I suspect it's inspired not so much by what's happening in the US as by the way the European right now (in a strange quirk of history) looks to America for inspiration..."
That seems plausible, but it's not much of an excuse for the massive misreading of the American scene--again, not that it's 100% wrong, but as Schmitz says it misses big things and exaggerates small ones, in addition to being somewhat malicious. I speculate that Spadaro, who spent time in Chicago, absorbed some partisan prejudice from the liberal Jesuits at Loyola.
Posted by: Mac | 08/11/2017 at 01:48 PM
Prejudice and misinformation.
Posted by: Mac | 08/11/2017 at 01:48 PM